Strong Jump Shifts: Good agreements develop partnership Harmony

That strong jump shifts by Opener are forcing to game is one of the cornerstone agreements of bidding. I find it very interesting that this concept is widely misunderstood.

For an explanation of strong jump shifts check out my earlier post in: Forcing and Non-Forcing Bids

A story about a hand from a Sectional in Wilmington Delaware really illustrates this point. I was playing at a local sectional in which I played in an A/X pairs game while another section of  B/C/D pairs played the same boards. In my section, playing against two veteran lifemasters, I defended as South against the following auction.

When the smoke cleared and the hand was over the opponents succeeded in taking 12 tricks for a score of +170. While I wasn’t surprised at the result, the opponents seemed to be and their post mortem continued through to the next hand. In listening to their conversation I was shocked. They just couldn’t figure out what the problem had been!

What went wrong was fairly common, not fully understanding the concept of forcing and non-forcing bids.

Jumpshifts by Opener are forcing to game. The 3D bid by East was forcing.

The full hand was:

While the partnership may not have gotten to the slam (which makes on a finesse), they should have been able to get to their cold 5D contract.

By playing standard Jumpshift agreements they would have been able to:

1) Search for the best game
2) Explore the best strains
3) Consider slam
4) Diagnose the lack of heart stopper
5) Allow East to finish showing distribution– and the heart shortness.
6) Recognize that there was no wasted values in the heart suit.

The auction should continue with East showing his spade fragment:

Now West can raise and play in the 4-3 (Moysian) fit, or look for the best level in the minors.  Since they were playing matchpoints, the Moysian spade fit is pretty attractive. Assuming normal breaks, you beat any pair in 5 of a minor, +450 vs. +400 or +480 vs. +420. Against pairs in slam you win roughly half the time depending on the success or failure of the spade finesse.


This same hand came up again for discussion, while dining with a good “C” pair after the first session ended. Ed, the C player who sat East, was reveling in his good luck on this board. When he was faced with the bidding problem, he chose to bid 3NT over Wests’s 3C jump shift. He was not sure if a 3D bid would have been forcing, and with his very balanced shape decided to gamble in the highest scoring strain. Their opponents didn’t find the obvious heart lead and he was +490 for a top score. However, Ed knew that the hand hadn’t been bid correctly, and asked my advice.

Upon hearing his tale, I explained that strong jump shifts by Opener are commonly misunderstood, and commented on how players in the flight A event had gotten this hand wrong too. I further explained that the fundamental issue with this hand is that players are reluctant to accept the principle that when opener jump shifts it forces to game. I recommended that they adopt the standard treatments for jump shifts by opener.

Well, my advice was acknowledged, and the partnership admitted that they weren’t sure if a 3D preference bid would have been forcing (they shrugged at each other as if it were not). After the discussion was over, and armed with the information that their agreements were flawed, they didn’t make any adjustments to their game, and continue to use nebulous agreements in jump shift auctions!

Why is there such reluctance to play jump shifts as game forcing? It’s easier, stronger, and it is standard.